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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body - 101 - Dental Health

Some of the same lifestyle choices that can keep your body in tip-top shape also help keep your teeth and gums healthy. For example, limiting sweets and avoiding tobacco are good for both your oral and general health.

The connection extends beyond lifestyle choices. Medications used to treat various illnesses can affect your oral health. Plus, certain illnesses may make you more prone to dental problems, while some dental problems may make you more vulnerable to particular illnesses. Understanding the connection between your oral health and the well-being of your body will help you take good care of both.

Eat Right

Bacteria need a steady supply of carbohydrates, especially sugary foods. A large and continuous source of sugar allows the bacterial population to multiply and produce enough acid to dissolve tooth enamel faster than the body can rebuild it. The rise in dental cavities tracks closely with the widespread availability of inexpensive refined sugar beginning in the 18th century.

Both how much sugar you eat and when you eat it can affect your risk for cavities. Foods such as these increase your chances of getting cavities:

  • Foods with sugar content of more than 15%–20%.
  • Sticky sweets such as honey, molasses, chewy candy, or raisins. These stay on the teeth longer than other sugars.
  • Slowly dissolving sugars. Slow-melting hard candies expose your teeth to sugar for a longer period of time compared with foods that are eaten quickly.
  • Sweets eaten alone. The saliva you secrete when you eat a meal may rinse away sugars.
  • Sweets eaten before bedtime. Unless you brush afterward, the sugar will remain undisturbed on the teeth until the next morning.
  • Starch and sugar combinations. Cookies, cakes, and other sweet baked goods are likely to cause decay.
  • Making positive food choices can be just as important as avoiding damaging items. Some foods, such as aged cheese and peanuts, actually lower the likelihood of decay by cutting the acidity of your saliva. Dairy products are high in natural sugar (in the form of lactose), but they also contain a protein that prevents bacteria from sticking to your teeth. In addition, dairy products are a natural source of calcium, an important nutrient for maintaining the strength of your teeth and bones. Insufficient calcium intake also contributes to periodontal disease.

    Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body - 101 - Dental Health

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